File this one under the “love” category: How to Write Letters is a “manual of correspondence, showing the correct structure, composition, punctuation, formalities, and uses of the various kinds of Letters, Notes and Cards,” penned by J. Willis Westlake in 1876. I discovered this via the wonderful Brain Pickings, which is a site you should totally bookmark if you haven’t already. There are tons of great excerpts from the book in Maria Popova’s article on Brain Pickings, but here’s my favorite:
“Take pains; write as plainly and neatly as possible—rapidly if you can, slowly if you must. Good writing affects us sympathetically, giving us a higher appreciation both of what is written and of the person who wrote it. Don’t say, I haven’t time to be so particular. Take time; or else write fewer letters and shorter ones. A neat well-worded letter of one page once a month is better than a slovenly scrawl of four pages once a week. In fact, bad letters are like store bills: the fewer and the shorter they are, the better pleased is the recipient.”
In an era where we fire off emails, tweets, texts and Facebook posts without a second thought, this makes me want to sit down with some of my favorite notecards and pen a handwritten note to all my friends. In fact, I just might do that. And I think that’s a good thing.
Photo: My own. A few weeks ago, when I was at my parents’, we were going through some old papers of my grandparents’ and found a bunch of my grandfather’s—my mom’s dad’s—old letters. I love them.